Don’t slander the homeless

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Casey Wiliams, Columnist

 

Over the years, there has been an increasing amount of stigma towards the homeless community as well as apprehension about giving them money.

These people are stigmatized because it is assumed that they somehow deserve their situation. They are branded as addicts, uneducated, or too lazy to hold down a job.

First of all, having a job does not guarantee that you will have enough money to provide for yourself or others for whom you may need to care.

Minimum wage has become a hot button issue that fosters hostility between the classes. Not to mention, with the economy in the state that it is, employment in general is not guaranteed.

If and when jobs are available, some people can’t just ‘get a job.’ There are other factors that must be taken into consideration, such as mental health, disability, bias and bigotry. If someone cannot reasonably pay for food and shelter, it’s a fair bet that they also cannot afford insurance or medication.

Many employers would obviously prefer an employee who is considered more reliable or stable. This bias creates an overwhelming disadvantage for those who suffer from mental illness. It creates the same issues for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.

There is a ridiculously high population of LGBT+ homeless youth. Teens and young adults who come out to unaccepting parents and guardians are often kicked out of their homes and have to cut ties with family and friends.

For these individuals who have no resources or marketable skills, avoiding homelessness is near impossible. Those who are successful combat inconceivable odds.

Doesn’t it seem possible, if not likely, that some individuals (i.e. those with money and the power to give it) would use false information to justify not wanting to give to others? In this case, wouldn’t it also seem likely that they would try to make themselves look better by discrediting the individuals asking for help?

In just the last few months, I have heard some of the most ludicrous assertions. I’ve been told that the majority of the homeless individuals who are usually seen on the street, asking for money, have apartments somewhere in the city and make roughly $40,000 annually from contributions given from strangers alone.

Apparently people who believe this interpret the word homeless to mean that they have less of a home instead of none at all.

It is definitely true that a small number of people in the world pretend to be in a more distressing situation than they really are. While this is true, and unfortunate for those who really are in need, I say if someone is willing to blatantly lie to strangers and put themselves through rejection, harassment and exposure to the elements, then they have tragically earned my $2 and I pray that they use it to get the help they undoubtedly need.

I seriously doubt that pocket change and small donations add up to thousands of dollars, but even if they do, that still comes in well below the U.S. poverty line and is hardly sufficient to provide for oneself.

Ultimately, if you don’t feel comfortable, or choose that you don’t want to give money to homeless people you encounter on the street, that is your choice. Please don’t demonize those you refuse to help with ignorant myths. It doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person if you don’t want to give someone else money. The same is not so true for those who claim that people who ask for help don’t deserve it.

Stereotypes, stigmas and general apathy towards the homeless have the same consequences that they would have towards any other group – they leads to dehumanization and desensitization towards the homeless people’s suffering.